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Erie Municipal Elections 2020: Interviews and Endorsements

Published on: March 17th, 2020

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The future comes at us fast. A month ago we hadn’t heard of the Coronavirus, but now the world seems to be screaming that change is required, leadership is important, and vision is paramount. To that end, we look at the upcoming election through the lens of progress, through the lens of who has been  – or has the capacity to be – clear-eyed and consistent, who is looking beyond what can be done under the current rules versus what needs to be done. The world cannot wait for our leaders, from the president down to our local statutory town Trustees, to step up and into a position of global citizenry, respect for the earth, rejection of the violence of climate catastrophe, and making space for others in a vibrant, livable community. 

Importantly, and for transparency, we note that our publisher, Shavonne Blades, was involved in this year’s elections on a personal level and, because of that involvement, has recused herself from the entire process of candidate question development, interview, and endorsement. This was strictly adhered to by our editor, De La Vaca. Endorsements were made by the interview team who reviewed the interviews, including De La Vaca and Brian Heuberger. Letters to the editor can be sent to editorial@yellowscene.com.

You can find our endorsements below the interviews.

 

Interviews have been transcribed and edited for length and clarity. All audio is available for review by campaigns.

 

CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR (3) 

 

Barry Luginbill

 

Can you give us a brief bio of your background and qualifications for office?

“I’m running for Erie Mayor. My background is 10 years of senior-level management experience for a global manufacturing company, I’m also a 2019 graduate of the Leadership Program of the Rockies, and that prepares people to fulfill the proper roles of government and to serve the needs of constituents.”

 

In bullet point, what are your main platform goals?

“Focusing on health and safety to reduce the negative impacts of oil and gas on our community. Also, improving the Infrastructure, helping small businesses thrive, and bringing big businesses to Erie.”

 

Transportation and Infrastructure – What do you see as the most pressing transportation and/or infrastructure concerns in Erie, and what are your plans to address those?

“The biggest issue is public transportation. 90 percent of the Erie population leaves during the day, and there’s only one transit in and out of town. I’d like to work with the state, RTD, and transit to expand our public transportation options. I also want to expand Erie Parkway to two lanes each way to allow cars to get in and out much quicker. Additionally, we should work with the town’s developers to ensure we are meeting their infrastructure needs.”

 

Housing – Some residents believe more diverse housing options are needed and others believe residential construction should be limited. Where do you stand on the housing issue, and how would you handle the residential issues in Erie?

“We need more diverse housing, and especially with price points. Right now Erie is an expensive place to live, so we need to provide more condos, townhomes, apartment complexes and rental options. We can do this by working with our planning commission and adjusting our impact fees to make sure they’re aligned with neighborhood communities. We also have areas on the outskirts of town where we can put apartment buildings and high-density housing without taking away from our small-town feel.”

 

Home Rule – Erie recently adopted a timeline to transition to home rule, with a vote expected in Nov 2021. Did you support Erie becoming a home rule town?

“I do support home rule. It’s something we have to get to eventually, the timing makes sense, and it’s huge to have local control over what’s happening in our town without relying on outside people to tell us what we can or cannot do.”

 

What advantages or disadvantages do you foresee, including challenges to implementation?

“Home rule and local control increase the ability for special interest groups to go directly to board members. But we need to understand the desire of the town and have a charter in place that benefits our community, that makes sure people aren’t getting overly taxed, and that provides control over oil and gas. Home rule is important, and the 180K cost is not much considering the benefits you get out of it.”

 

Taxes – As a home rule town, the local government has the power to establish its own sales tax. What general tax plans or budgeting priorities would be most effective for Erie?

“We’ll have the ability to do what we want with our sales tax. We have a tremendous amount of open space, and I’d like to see that expand. So we should take tax out and allocate it specifically for acquiring and maintaining more open space for residents because that will draw more interest in Erie.”

 

Development – Growth could provide increased employment opportunities for residents and more tax revenue for Erie. How would you stimulate economic growth and create more jobs and – specifically – what is Erie most in need of?

“As chair of the Erie Economic Development Committee, I’d look at addressing local businesses and attracting big businesses. But we’re not focusing on the small businesses that we currently have, so we need to listen to their challenges, see where we’re missing the mark, and figure out how to make the necessary corrections. Then we can use that progress to focus on bringing in big businesses because we do need the primary employment and people coming into Erie.”

 

Health & Safety – Erie has an abundance of oil wells and fracking sites. Some argue that the oil and gas industry is good for the economy while others contend that the industry is destructive to the community and also a dying economy. Where do you stand on oil and gas as a viable economy? 

“Both sides are right. We sit on one of the largest resources in the country, and we should foster a working relationship between the board and operators to push the activities towards the outside of town so they’re not within 1,500 feet of residents or 500 feet of schools. Ideally, home rule and SB 181 should give us more local control and negotiating power when we go to work with them.”

 

Given the very short timetable for averting climate catastrophe, at what point will Erie vote to ban fracking?

Against. “We should look at what’s best for the community as a whole. There is an opportunity to capitalize off the revenue, and if we ban oil and gas we would need a plan in place to make up that loss. We’re looking at pulling $180 million of oil and gas money to activate the Erie Parkway and I-25 project, and without that, we would need a plan for the money that is needed for the site. I have a hard time saying to ban it. But climate change is real, I’m running to represent the community as a whole, and so if the community says they want to ban oil and gas then that’s what we would need to do.”

 

Final Remarks – Even though all statewide offices are in Democratic hands, and Bernie Sanders won the primary here in Colorado, the overall political climate remains divisive. How do you plan to work across aisles and ideologies to make the changes you hope to enact, should you be elected?

“My business experience enabled me to work with communities, cultures, and countries all over the world. I know we need a board that’s diversified with thoughts and ideologies. But despite the disagreements and debates that occur in the back rooms, we have to come out as a united front to show the community that we can disagree while still being polite and respectful with each other.”

 

Is there anything else that we haven’t covered and that you’d like the voters to know about yourself? 

No Further Comment.

 

Mayor Jennifer Carroll (Incumbent)

 

Can you give us a brief bio of your background and qualifications for office, including which office you are seeking?

“I’ve lived in Erie for about 10 years, and I moved here to buy a house in an area with a good school system and a small-town feel. Professionally I am a technical engineer for Ball Aerospace. In 2014, I saw the challenges with the government and decided to throw my hat into the ring. So I ran for office and served as trustee for four years, then I served as mayor for the last two years, and I think that I did a good job in my first term by acting out everything I told the public I wanted to focus on and by making progress on many key issues.” 

 

In bullet point, what are your main platform goals?

“I have many priorities for Erie. It’s important to buy beautiful parks and open space land. Economic development is also very important. We’ve opened many cool restaurants and exciting businesses, and I want to push for more while the economy is still flourishing. I’m also proud of the Town Center. I wanted to do something unique and special at the heart of town, and it has a good mix of uses and a high-quality design. Oil and gas is also crucial. I was at the Capitol to help pass SB 181, its passage dramatically changed the regulatory landscape, and now we’re doing much more to regulate future oil and gas activities. Finally, infrastructure is essential because we need to manage the growing population of Erie and mitigate the higher volume of traffic.”

 

Transportation and Infrastructure – What do you see as the most pressing transportation and/or infrastructure concerns in Erie, and what are your plans to address those?

“The primary problems are at the borders. People move around town pretty easily, but getting in and out is difficult because everything is single-lane and prone to backups. I influenced the designs of the Nine Mile intersection, our board helped with 287 and Erie Parkway, and then I was especially satisfied with 287 and Arapahoe. Now we need to influence the Highway 7 intersection and the I-25 Erie Parkway corridor to manage traffic and reduce accidents. Mass transit would be especially helpful because we only have one bus route from Erie to Boulder. It’s not conducive for residents, and so not many people are riding it because of the horrible scheduling. But I’d like to implement more mass transit options by generating a bus loop that goes around all four corners of town, and by making Nine Mile a transit hub with a frequent schedule of buses and a wide variety of routes.”

 

Housing – Some residents believe more diverse housing options are needed and others believe residential construction should be limited. Where do you stand on the housing issue, and how would you handle the residential issues in Erie?

“I don’t like our high price point or uniform housing stock, as many people can’t afford to buy homes in Erie and don’t want the large houses that are available. So I’ve been advocating for more diversity with price points and housing styles. We approved townhomes in Erie Commons, duplex style units by the high school, and apartments by the King Soopers. However, we can still offer incentives to developers by fast-tracking the approval process when they plan to build diverse housing products, such as condo units, townhome complexes, tiny house communities, and creative multi-use homes.”

 

Home Rule – Erie recently adopted a timeline to transition to home rule, with a vote expected in Nov 2021. Did you support Erie becoming a home rule town?

“I support home rule going to voters. I do think that the pros outweigh the cons because it’s beneficial to collect our own sales tax rather than waiting for the state to collect the tax, getting our allotment from the state, and then performing internal checks to make sure we’re getting the right amount and to file protests if not.”

 

What advantages or disadvantages do you foresee, including challenges to implementation?

“The biggest challenge revolves around the transition. You have a whole new election, a new charter, and many decisions regarding the size of the commission and the details of the staff. But educating the public can help them make an informed decision, so we hired a consultant who will be at many events in the Spring and Summer to engage with the community and discuss the changes, benefits, and detriments of becoming a home rule town.” 

 

Taxes – What general tax plans or budgeting priorities would be most effective for Erie?

“I don’t think our budgeting priorities would change, but we would have to spend more revenue on staff to operate the charter and collect the taxes. Right now we’re running a lean budget with a million dollar surplus last year. Although home rule would allow us to tax more industries and generate more revenue, we should remain fiscally responsible and avoid drastically expanding how much we spend.” 

 

Development – Growth could provide increased employment opportunities for residents and more tax revenue for Erie. How would you stimulate economic growth and create more jobs and – specifically – what is Erie most in need of?

“We’ve been incentivizing small employers with sales tax increment deals. Rather than just giving companies money when they open, we’re allowing them to keep a portion of the tax revenue as they achieve success and accumulate profits. We’re also happy about our incubator spaces that can provide classes for new startups and offer tools for growing entrepreneurs. But we should also attract big businesses because we do need primary employers. There’s some barriers to entry to address and land prices drive everything, but we can alleviate the development process for big businesses by changing the water tap fee structures for buildings that have multiple tenants.”

 

Health & Safety – Erie has an abundance of oil wells and fracking sites. Some argue that the oil and gas industry is good for the economy while others contend that the industry is destructive to the community and also a dying economy. Where do you stand on oil and gas as a viable economy? 

“I don’t say all oil and gas needs to be eliminated from Erie tomorrow because I’m a realist. I do promote using renewable energy to minimize our carbon footprint, such as solar panels and wind programs. But I understand that the transition to renewables takes time and we need to incentivize businesses to drive technological innovation. Some people say the oil and gas industry is important because of the revenue, but it comes out to about $400,000 per year and so we could figure out a way to not be dependent on oil and gas revenue.”

 

Given the very short timetable for averting climate catastrophe, at what point will Erie vote to ban fracking?

“As an elected official representing the Town, I would accommodate the desires of the community. Personally oil and gas doesn’t fit into my vision for the community, but a ban may not be feasible because of legal issues and financial consequences. However, SB 181 expanded our local control to regulate the industry and develop new codes. I’ve pushed for larger setback requirements to ensure that oil and gas activities remain 2,000 to 2,500 feet away from homes or schools, which can significantly minimize the risks and protect our residents. We’ve also added new monitoring standards. With Crestone, the air quality monitoring program caught over 100 leaks, and this provided us with better air quality and helped them avoid losing money. We also proposed a heavy industrial zoning class, and this would only permit drilling or fracking in specific areas that are designated for their activities and that are far away from residents.”

 

Final Remarks – Even though all statewide offices are in Democratic hands, and Bernie Sanders won the primary here in Colorado, the overall political climate remains divisive. How do you plan to work across aisles and ideologies to make the changes you hope to enact, should you be elected?

“I pride myself on collaboration over divisiveness. Like a company or a family, we may have disagreements but we’re all on the same team. So I believe we can disagree while being respectful. But it has also been important for me to demonstrate that attitude so I can lead by example, influence change, and encourage the town to also engage in healthy debates while maintaining civil tones and respectful dispositions. Regardless of differences, I am eager to have conversations with everyone and determined to ensure that all voices are heard.”

 

Is there anything else that we haven’t covered and that you’d like the voters to know about yourself? 

“I think it’s very cool that the word ‘Erie’ is right in the middle of the word ‘experience’ with perfect symmetry. I want that to be a sign and an attitude. I envision Erie as an appealing location and stimulating experience where people can enjoy our massive mountain views, our beautiful open space, and potentially concert venues and sports fields. Rather than just shopping, I like the mindset of Erie being an active town for residents, an exciting destination for visitors, and a wonderful experience for everybody.” 

 

Christiaan van Woudenberg – ENDORSED

 

Can you give us a brief bio of your background and qualifications for office, including which office you are seeking? 

“I’m running for mayor. I was born in South Africa. But I’ve been in Colorado for over 30 years, I received a molecular biology degree at CU Boulder, did graduate work at CU Denver, and I’ve worked in enterprise software development for the past 25 years. Regarding Erie, I’ve been living here since 2007. I’ve seen it grow exponentially since then, and I now serve on the Board of Trustees. Erie is at a pivotal crossroads where we have an opportunity to do great things, to establish a diverse sustainable economy with our tax base, to support our infrastructure, to be better environmentally, and I want to be at the helm of this momentous shift.”

 

In bullet point, what are your main platform goals?

“I want to see us pivot to commercial development to bring in businesses and use that tax revenue. Erie should also put an end to residential drilling because oil and gas is not compatible with residential areas. Improving and maintaining our infrastructure to accommodate the rapid growth in our population is very important. I also want to preserve the character of Old Town by adding more development and restaurants, establish Erie as a leader in environmental sustainability by forming a master plan, and work with our neighbors regarding traffic congestion and transportation options. Above all, I want to see Erie as a sustainable community economically and environmentally.” 

 

Transportation and Infrastructure – What do you see as the most pressing transportation and/or infrastructure concerns in Erie, and what are your plans to address those?

“It’s two-fold. Public Works already has a $20 million gap [between] their desired maintenance and their allowed budget, so we must focus on attracting businesses to Erie and getting commercial sales tax bases to close that gap. We also need to attract primary employers. People live here, but they work and shop elsewhere, and so having a business climate in which residents can work and shop here would stop funds from being drained out of Erie and would provide more revenue to maintain the infrastructure. The other issue is with regional transportation. They’re looking at an RTD reduction in bus routes from Erie to Boulder, so we need to collaborate with neighboring counties and municipalities, look at public-private partnerships we’ve established, and work with CDOT to drive regional transit projects forward.”

 

Housing – Some residents believe more diverse housing options are needed and others believe residential construction should be limited. Where do you stand on the housing issue, and how would you handle the residential issues in Erie?

“This falls in line with the new urbanism philosophy that will be in place. It’s unsustainable to continue to only build these large single-family homes and to perpetuate this car-based culture. Creating higher density residential developments and different housing options can enable everyone to occupy a unit that’s conducive for their preferences and can drive the market prices to reasonable levels. But we also need to prevent condo development from being obstructed with statehouse legislation. SB 20-138 could increase the ability of condo associations to sue developers for construction defects by giving them ten years to file the lawsuits, and this would render developers reluctant to build condominiums. So we need to work with developers to build diverse houses and legislators to avoid bills that doom the condo industry.”

 

Home Rule – Erie recently adopted a timeline to transition to home rule, with a vote expected in Nov 2021. Did you support Erie becoming a home rule town?

“I vigorously support Erie becoming a home rule town. We are currently the largest statutory town in Colorado, but if we’re home rule we would be in the middle of the pack with other home rule municipalities. We’re definitely growing as a community, we’re ready to grow up with home rule status, and we can have a host of extra options by obtaining that status.”

 

What advantages or disadvantages do you foresee, including challenges to implementation?

“One challenge is that we’re in a fractured political state, which starts at the national level but trickles down to the state and local levels as well. So we need to see if we can gather between 9 and 21 individuals to come up with a good charter that is just and that can set Erie on a course to being successful. But a big advantage is the ability for a charter to define the structure of the trustee board. For instance, I would love for Old Town to have its own ward, because Old Town residents have been lacking representation and the ward system is much more aligned with the principals of a representative democracy. We can also determine the powers of the mayor and the operations of the government, so I’m excited to see what they develop with a charter.”

 

Taxes – As a home rule town, the local government has the power to establish its own sales tax. What general tax plans or budgeting priorities would be most effective for Erie?

“Any extra increment that we can pull out of oil and gas to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents would be a great advantage. It would also be beneficial to use taxes on commercial development to make sure development pays its own way and contributes to the town. For instance, we can take businesses that are doing well, use the tax revenue to expand infrastructure out to I-25, and make progress on that highway frontier where development has to happen.”

 

Development – Growth could provide increased employment opportunities for residents and more tax revenue for Erie. How would you stimulate economic growth and create more jobs and – specifically – what is Erie most in need of?

“This needs a multi-pronged approach. We need primary employment where people can earn a living, and commercial establishments where people can spend their money. To this end, I’m excited about our work in our economic development group and especially our incubator spaces. The incubators can maximize the likelihood that other startups establish themselves in that space and then start businesses right here in Erie. We also need to make it easier for businesses to open up in town. The process is fundamentally broken because meeting the arbitrary conditions of our code requirements and fulfilling the permitting process of the planning commission is just too difficult. We don’t want codes to be so prohibitive as to stifle innovative ideas or unique products, so we want to make the approval process easier by maximizing the flexibility and creativity they can bring.”

 

Health & Safety – Erie has an abundance of oil wells and fracking sites. Some argue that the oil and gas industry is good for the economy while others contend that the industry is destructive to the community and also a dying economy. Where do you stand on oil and gas as a viable economy? 

“Last week alone has changed the landscape dramatically. A study indicated that with the drop in oil stocks and the reduction in gas prices, only a handful of companies can make a profit at this rate. Depending on various factors, we could see a collapse of oil and gas extraction in Colorado and elsewhere. We don’t want to encourage operators to set up shop in town if their stocks are plummeting and we’re not likely to garner much revenue from their activities.”

 

Given the very short timetable for averting climate catastrophe, at what point will Erie vote to ban fracking?

“SB 181 afforded the government more local control. It removed state preemption from that language and created tighter restrictions around oil and gas. I would love to put a ban in place, and I would love to ensure a just transition to other industries for oil and gas workers who provided us with such an important service. But I’m not sure if it’s the right thing for Erie to be the first municipality to put forth a ban and to then have to defend the ban in courts. So I don’t think it’s a good time to do that, we already have 157 active wells, and once you open the door to oil and gas it’s difficult to close it. So the current strategy should be to regulate the industry as tight as possible, apply the land use authority from 181, and only place these operations in areas of town where it’s compatible.”

 

Final Remarks – Even though all statewide offices are in Democratic hands, and Bernie Sanders won the primary here in Colorado, the overall political climate remains divisive. How do you plan to work across aisles and ideologies to make the changes you hope to enact, should you be elected?

“I have faith in the election process itself. In 2018 the people of Erie really did elect the right people to become elected officeholders, and I have faith in them to elect the right people again. It will behoove all of us to have intellectual discussions and respectful debates. It’s a matter of being able to sit down with people to have conversations based more on the facts and less on opinions. I enjoy debating the issues on the facts, listening to other people, holding true to my principals, and making the decisions that would be best for Erie.”

 

Is there anything else that we haven’t covered and that you’d like the voters to know about yourself? 

“I’m entirely self-financed. I was self-financed in 2018 as well, of all the people elected in the last cycle I spent the least amount of money, and now I’m doing it again because we shouldn’t need to spend a lot of money to get elected. Instead, we should be spending time with the community, speaking to the voters, and promoting our ideas to earn their votes.”

 

CANDIDATES FOR TRUSTEE (9-Two Candidates remain to be interviewed: Jim Luthi & Todd Sargent if we hear back from them, we will update.)

 

Dan Hoback, Trustee Candidate

 

Can you give us a brief bio of your background and qualifications for office?

“I’m running for trustee. I’ve lived in Erie for 18 years and have a finger on the pulse of the town. My financial, accounting and auditing background can bring a financial perspective, and being an HOA President and a PTSO Treasurer can provide leadership experience.”

 

In bullet point, what are your main platform goals?

“Economic growth, commercial development, fiscal responsibility, and health and safety.”

 

Transportation and Infrastructure – What do you see as the most pressing transportation and/or infrastructure concerns in Erie, and what are your plans to address those?

“We need to be more forward-looking. The town put a four-way stop at County Road 7 because there was a critical accident there, but it would be good to expand the intersection and insert a light. We also need to have in-depth traffic studies to ensure our roads can accommodate our rising population growth, the new Town Center, and the passthrough traffic coming to or from surrounding areas.”

 

Housing – Some residents believe more diverse housing options are needed and others believe residential construction should be limited. Where do you stand on the housing issue, and how would you handle the residential issues in Erie?

“I agree with both aspects of the issue. I would love to see more open space, and nobody wants high-density apartment buildings in their backyard. But we do need affordable housing, senior housing, and creative housing rather than cookie-cutter communities. To do this, we should work with developers to encourage creative plans and diverse housing options. But we also need to buy land to preserve open space and make sure our residents are willing to pay for that.”

 

Home Rule – Erie recently adopted a timeline to transition to home rule, with a vote expected in Nov 2021. Did you support Erie becoming a home rule town?

“Erie’s been considering this for over 8 years and, upon researching it heavily, I do think we should become a home rule town. It gives us flexibility going forward regarding what we can do with projects, such as the Town Center, transportation details, and building plans.”

 

What advantages or disadvantages do you foresee, including challenges to implementation?

“There’s a learning curve and a new government structure, but it’s not a barrier. It’s just a short-term challenge and I think we can manage the transition.”

 

Taxes – As a home rule town, the local government has the power to establish its own sales tax. What general tax plans or budgeting priorities would be most effective for Erie?

“Being a home rule town can enable us to tax new industries and generate more revenue, such as marijuana shops. But for new taxes or increased taxes, we do still need to put them up to a vote because of TABOR. We can also get creative with property tax assessments, modify mill levies, and bring in new businesses to get more sales taxes.” 

 

Development – Growth could provide increased employment opportunities for residents and more tax revenue for Erie. How would you stimulate economic growth and create more jobs and – specifically – what is Erie most in need of?

“The residents want a small grocery store here, and I would also love to get a small grocery store. We used land incentives for King Soopers, but with smaller companies, we should use tax incentives, financing plans, property tax rebates, and water rate reductions. We also need to stimulate businesses as much as possible by making the process of opening and operating a business much easier and cheaper.”

 

Health & Safety – Erie has an abundance of oil wells and fracking sites. Some argue that the oil and gas industry is good for the economy while others contend that the industry is destructive to the community and also a dying economy. Where do you stand on oil and gas as a viable economy? 

“The oil and gas industry isn’t going away anytime soon. We need to encourage new energy sources, but I believe oil and gas have a right to extract those resources and we don’t want to get the town sued. However, they have to extract those resources responsibly, we have to make sure they are not endangering our residents, and I don’t want them in our neighborhoods or near our schools.” 

 

Given the very short timetable for averting climate catastrophe, at what point will Erie vote to ban fracking?

“SB 181 and home rule give us a bit more power. Before considering bans, we would need to evaluate the risk of going to court over it, whether we’re complying with Colorado laws and our lawyer’s interpretation of the ordinance. So even if I’m personally in favor of there being a ban, actually getting to that point seems impractical and unrealistic.”

 

Final Remarks – Even though all statewide offices are in Democratic hands, and Bernie Sanders won the primary here in Colorado, the overall political climate remains divisive. How do you plan to work across aisles and ideologies to make the changes you hope to enact, should you be elected?

“With mutual respect. I disagree with people from time to time, and I even disagree with my friends sometimes, but I still always treat people respectfully as my fellow neighbors. I have done this throughout my entire career by working with diverse cultures, different perspectives and unique points of view.” 

 

Is there anything else that we haven’t covered and that you’d like the voters to know about yourself?

“The best interest of the town of Erie and its residents is what’s important to me. I have no personal agenda for becoming a trustee, and I will follow what all of them want and not just a vocal minority.” 

 

Andrew Sawusch, Trustee Candidate

 

Can you give us a brief bio of your background and qualifications for office?

“I’m seeking the trustee position. I graduated from CU Boulder with a degree in business administration and marketing management. For over a decade I was director of operations for multiple businesses, and so I have experience creating strategies, identifying goals, increasing efficiency, improving effectiveness, and reducing costs. 

 

In bullet point, what are your main platform goals?

“Management of infrastructure, managing the growth, fiscal and financial responsibility, intergovernmental relations, and community relations. 

 

Transportation and Infrastructure – What do you see as the most pressing transportation and/or infrastructure concerns in Erie, and what are your plans to address those?

“Water and wastewater is the most pressing issue because it impacts every residence and business. But we have to look at actual capacity for our roads, resources, and infrastructure system. Many aspects of our population growth were not planned for properly, our infrastructure capacity was not addressed, and so we need a comprehensive plan to accommodate the growth and update our infrastructure.”

 

Housing – Some residents believe more diverse housing options are needed and others believe residential construction should be limited. Where do you stand on the housing issue, and how would you handle the residential issues in Erie?

“We need to plan better for the residential growth and work with developers to provide more affordable housing. We have a lot of open space we can buy to preserve the land or develop new housing. But decisions made by the board caused us to have a negative balance for the open space conservation fund, so we should reserve a percentage of taxes to purchase more open space and we can do that without requiring a ballot initiative.”

 

Home Rule – Erie recently adopted a timeline to transition to home rule, with a vote expected in Nov 2021. Did you support Erie becoming a home rule town?

“I support the initiative in the future, but I don’t think Erie needs it now because we have not yet utilized and exhausted our full governing powers provided by the state. There’s still a lot more we can do with our municipal code, and we can make ours more expansive like Superior’s code.”

 

What advantages or disadvantages do you foresee, including challenges to implementation?

“Community engagement is essential. I see home rule in a few years, but for now, we shouldn’t rush the transition. We should instead complete the planning process by ensuring the residents understand the details of becoming home rule and by allowing the community to engage with the transition process.”

 

Taxes – As a home rule town, the local government has the power to establish its own sales tax. What general tax plans or budgeting priorities would be most effective for Erie?

“We need to make sure there is transparency. Setting up rules, policies, and procedures for the town staff is needed to verify that the funding is spent properly and to show the community where the money is going. Rather than increasing funds with new taxes, we can use the funds we have at hand more effectively.” 

 

Development – Growth could provide increased employment opportunities for residents and more tax revenue for Erie. How would you stimulate economic growth and create more jobs and – specifically – what is Erie most in need of?

“The barrier to entry is the biggest issue. Businesses complain to me that the town makes them perform excessive obligations, including impact fees, tap fees, expensive leases, and delayed permit issues. These barriers to entry are prohibitive for businesses, so we need to expedite requests for developers and reduce costs for companies.” 

 

Health & Safety – Erie has an abundance of oil wells and fracking sites. Some argue that the oil and gas industry is good for the economy while others contend that the industry is destructive to the community and also a dying economy. Where do you stand on oil and gas as a viable economy? 

“I’m not for nor against oil and gas. It’s a business just like any other industry and should be regulated properly. They should be held accountable to any negative impacts they have on the environment, and they should not be near our residences, schools or parks.” 

 

Given the very short timetable for averting climate catastrophe, at what point will Erie vote to ban fracking?

“I’m not contending any of the science on climate change, but more studies need to be done because they’re inconclusive. We can’t ban oil and gas outfight, but we can use our municipal powers and statutory authority to regulate the industry. The board has not been creating meaningful regulations, so we need to update our code to make sure that the oil and gas industry stays away from residents.”

 

Final Remarks – Even though all statewide offices are in Democratic hands, and Bernie Sanders won the primary here in Colorado, the overall political climate remains divisive. How do you plan to work across aisles and ideologies to make the changes you hope to enact, should you be elected?

“It’s a nonpartisan election. We’re all residents of Erie and that’s all that matters. We should look at opposing views, get other feedback, and have different ideas brought to light so we can find bold and innovative solutions. Outside views allow me to grow and understand these situations, and these discussions provide better outcomes for everybody.”

 

Is there anything else that we haven’t covered and that you’d like the voters to know about yourself? 

“The biggest reason I’m running for office is the management of the growth and the sustainability of our infrastructure. New infrastructure has been at capacity, these items are leading to many problems, and we should provide a comprehensive plan to define where we are and where we want to be.”

 

James Lee, Trustee Candidate

 

Can you give us a brief bio of your background and qualifications for office?

“I’m running for trustee of Erie. I’ve been in Erie for 23 years, my career is in the trucking and logistics industry, and seven years ago I started my own trucking company. I’ve also worked on traffic solution projects with CDOT, and one of Erie’s biggest problems is that we’ve boomed so much that infrastructure just doesn’t support it. So I want to deliver effective solutions to move people around, maintain the small-town feel, and bring businesses into town.”

 

In bullet point, what are your main platform goals?

“Improving our Infrastructure, helping businesses thrive, providing financial oversight, and protecting open space.”

 

Transportation and Infrastructure – What do you see as the most pressing transportation and/or infrastructure concerns in Erie, and what are your plans to address those?

“I would prioritize mitigating traffic. Erie Parkway is crucial, as that’s our lifeblood to and from I-25, it’s always backed up with traffic, and so I would expand Erie Parkway to four lanes. But we also need to reduce the amount of cars on the roads. Erie has been a commuter town, but we need to look at bringing other options to residents, such as rideshares, bike paths, and walking trails. We can do this by working with developers and using impact fees to fund more infrastructure projects and increase our transportation options.”

 

Housing – Some residents believe more diverse housing options are needed and others believe residential construction should be limited. Where do you stand on the housing issue, and how would you handle the residential issues in Erie?

“It’s been great to watch Erie boom, but now we need some affordable housing so everyone can experience the town. I’m in favor of construction and residential, but I don’t want Erie to become just rooftops and buildings. We need to set high development standards and look at residential projects on a case-by-case basis by considering who wants to build here, the housing types they would provide, the affordability thresholds they would meet, and the amount of open space it would take to bring their projects into fruition.” 

 

Home Rule – Erie recently adopted a timeline to transition to home rule, with a vote expected in Nov 2021. Did you support Erie becoming a home rule town?

“I do support Erie becoming a home rule town. I like that we start to collect our own taxes instead of waiting for the state to make interest on us before sending it over.” 

 

What advantages or disadvantages do you foresee, including challenges to implementation?

“The most important task for home rule is getting the charter right. I’m pretty fiscally conservative, but it is good to use that money to educate the public, engage the community, and hear their opinions. Then we need to find experts from all different careers and industries to make sure we’re building a great charter because we’ll only have one shot to get it right.”

 

Taxes – As a home rule town, the local government has the power to establish its own sales tax. What general tax plans or budgeting priorities would be most effective for Erie?

“That’s something that I’d take time to research, and I’d consult with financial experts to provide advice on those tax decisions.”

 

Development – Growth could provide increased employment opportunities for residents and more tax revenue for Erie. How would you stimulate economic growth and create more jobs and – specifically – what is Erie most in need of?

“We need to grow the economic sector of Erie, and running my own business helps me understand how to drive those projects forward and bring people in. I would give people access to angel networks and incubators, get that I-25 project moving to capitalize on that highway access and use tax incentives to aggressively get big businesses in the area. But I would also maintain the small-town feel by keeping the small companies and ma and pa shops here in the center of town.”

 

Health & Safety – Erie has an abundance of oil wells and fracking sites. Some argue that the oil and gas industry is good for the economy while others contend that the industry is destructive to the community and also a dying economy. Where do you stand on oil and gas as a viable economy? 

“I’m not against oil and gas and it is still viable in that it creates a lot of good-paying jobs. But SB 181 does give us more opportunities to put safety measures in place than the state says there has to be. I’m thankful for the men and women who work those rigs to provide our comforts, but I’m a believer that climate change is real and that we have to start combating it.” 

 

Given the very short timetable for averting climate catastrophe, at what point will Erie vote to ban fracking?

“Oil and gas is still a necessity right now, so I’m not willing to say no more oil and gas in Erie. But I am willing to say we need strict safety policies to ensure citizens are going to be safe, such as decent setbacks and distance requirements.”

 

Final Remarks – Even though all statewide offices are in Democratic hands, and Bernie Sanders won the primary here in Colorado, the overall political climate remains divisive. How do you plan to work across aisles and ideologies to make the changes you hope to enact, should you be elected?

“I’ve been in leadership positions since I was 17 years old. It comes down to human decency and overall respect. As a leader, I would step up, understand what you have to say, and express what I have to say. Rarely is anything done when one side is yelling so loud that no one can hear, so it takes a leader to find the middle ground and find solutions that are good for everybody.”

 

Is there anything else that we haven’t covered and that you’d like the voters to know about yourself?

“I want my son to grow up with that small-town feel that I always had in Erie. I also want to reach out and work with everybody to keep moving forward in a vibrant, optimistic, and positive direction. That’s why my campaign slogan is ‘working together, creating solutions.’”

 

Ari Harrison, Trustee Candidate – ENDORSED 

 

Can you give us a brief bio of your background and qualifications for office?

“I’m seeking the Board of Trustee position. I’ve been on the planning commission since 2015 so I have a lot of experience regarding how things work in Erie. For the last 25 years, I’ve been working in the high-tech industry as a project manager and business consultant solving problems that companies face, ensuring tasks are executed properly, helping teams work well together, and completing projects successfully.” 

 

In bullet point, what are your main platform goals?

“This is fracking central and so first is health and safety. But also economic sustainability and increasing the economic situation in Erie, infrastructure to support our growing town, transportation to reduce traffic and increase mass transit, and business growth so we have the money to do those things.”

 

Transportation and Infrastructure – What do you see as the most pressing transportation and/or infrastructure concerns in Erie, and what are your plans to address those?

“Everywhere we go requires us to get in the car, which means more traffic. There’s a notion that extending lanes would help, but a lot of data shows that just invites more traffic. So we need to leverage the data, identify where traffic is coming from and going to, and determine what areas of focus we need to concentrate on to manage volume. We also need more mass transit by working closely with RTD and by having them provide more bus routes with more frequency.” 

 

Housing – Some residents believe more diverse housing options are needed and others believe residential construction should be limited. Where do you stand on the housing issue, and how would you handle the residential issues in Erie?

“Being on the planning commission helps me bring expertise regarding construction and growth. As we grow, we need to see what other towns have done so we can replicate methods that worked and avoid those that have failed. We can then use that information to incorporate beneficial residential plans into our municipal codes. We then need to help developers understand the long-term profits and overall benefits of providing more diverse product offerings, such as affordable options, tiny houses, townhomes or condos.” 

 

Home Rule – Erie recently adopted a timeline to transition to home rule, with a vote expected in Nov 2021. Did you support Erie becoming a home rule town?

“I do believe in home rule. If I have to choose between less or more control, I definitely want more control as a town because it gives us more power over managing our sales tax revenue and fracking operation regulations.” 

 

What advantages or disadvantages do you foresee, including challenges to implementation?

“Regarding sales tax, we need the infrastructure to support and manage that process because it’s very complex. Also, businesses might have to consider multiple taxes, so we should look at it from a financial perspective, provide assistance to those businesses, and make sure the charter is clear and simple so everyone understands the requirements and expectations.”

 

Taxes – As a home rule town, the local government has the power to establish its own sales tax. What general tax plans or budgeting priorities would be most effective for Erie?

“Erie’s a chicken and egg situation. We want all of these amenities, but don’t have sales tax to do it and so that’s been a constant challenge that we have to balance. We should bring stakeholders and entrepreneurs in to see what we can do with sales tax revenue and home rule, how we can allocate the taxes we collect and the core issues that can improve the town with a value that lasts more than just one year.”

 

Development – Growth could provide increased employment opportunities for residents and more tax revenue for Erie. How would you stimulate economic growth and create more jobs and – specifically – what is Erie most in need of?

“Increasing that sales tax revenue is most important. Without that, we can’t afford anything. Everyone wants restaurants and businesses that are convenient to get to and that would add to the vibrancy of the community. The Town Center has a unique ability to do that, and the I-25 corridor can also help us get larger companies out there. But we also need more recreation centers. The current community center is becoming overcrowded, so we need more rec centers and perhaps outdoor pools that are geographically dispersed throughout town and available for the rising population.”

 

Health & Safety – Erie has an abundance of oil wells and fracking sites. Some argue that the oil and gas industry is good for the economy while others contend that the industry is destructive to the community and also a dying economy. Where do you stand on oil and gas as a viable economy? 

“The oil and gas industry is a finite resource. Erie has over 300 wells tapped or untapped, so we’re overdrilled. But the concerns are how to replace revenue. It’s important to diversify our tax revenue with multiple kinds of businesses to replace the revenue that we get from the fracking industry. Then we also need a transition for the workers of the industry, provide a parallel track for them to utilize their beneficial skill sets, and network them with ideal companies.”

 

Given the very short timetable for averting climate catastrophe, at what point will Erie vote to ban fracking?

“Emotions say that banning would be nice, but we really can’t do that. It’s such a shock to the industry and there are byproducts to eliminating it, such as school districts losing their sole source of tax revenue. We need an incremental approach to measure for the financial losses, assess the legal repercussions, mitigate the risks, account for unintended consequences, and then make concrete 

decisions based on the facts and data.”

 

Final Remarks – Even though all statewide offices are in Democratic hands, and Bernie Sanders won the primary here in Colorado, the overall political climate remains divisive. How do you plan to work across aisles and ideologies to make the changes you hope to enact, should you be elected?

“Working on the board is all collective. We have to work in unison with a collaborative approach while recognizing and valuing that people have the right to harbor different opinions from us. We have to consider the best approaches for the town while getting over the toxicity of viewing the other side as enemies. So we need to represent the core fundamental values of honesty, trust, integrity and empathy.” 

 

Is there anything else that we haven’t covered and that you’d like the voters to know about yourself?

“Voters want someone who they trust to be honest with them about what’s going on with the town. I’m not a blowhard, I’m a workhorse. I’m willing to be thoughtful, use critical thinking skills, and perform thorough analyses to solve the problems that we are facing. In the end, I want my grandchildren to look out and see that we did things the right way. I want this town to be special, and I want that to be my legacy.”

 

Bryon Bednar, Trustee Candidate – ENDORSED

 

Can you give us a brief bio of your background and qualifications for office?

“I’m running for Erie trustee. I’m uniquely qualified for the position, as I’ve been a professional engineer for almost 40 years and so I know how to get things done safely and effectively. I believe in long-term planning, and I developed planning processes for the Air Force that won nationwide recognition. My work as a field engineer for Texas Instruments also prepares me to help find a balance between getting things done for Erie without compromising health and safety. Regarding the issues Erie is facing, the answer is more competent, comprehensive, and coordinated planning.”

 

In bullet point, what are your main platform goals?

“Health and safety are first and foremost, as the primary responsibility of government is to protect the public from danger. Another platform goal is that we need to evolve our planning process in Erie. Third, we need to prepare ourselves for home rule because we’ve outgrown the statutory rules imposed by the state and would benefit from the unique tools and increased powers that home rule will give us.”

 

Transportation and Infrastructure – What do you see as the most pressing transportation and/or infrastructure concerns in Erie, and what are your plans to address those?

“The problem is caused from inside and outside of Erie, and the solution is to fix both with better engineering and improved planning. Our current plans do not look at the impact of developments on surrounding areas or adjacent communities. If we establish a comprehensive plan that is reviewed by competent traffic engineers and that looks at the total impact of a development, we would have a much better traffic network and infrastructure grid. For instance, Erie Parkway and 287 is one of the worst intersections in the state, and County Line and Highway 7 is a disaster. In these areas, we should add more lanes, install traffic signals, and use effective traffic calming methods.”

 

Housing – Some residents believe more diverse housing options are needed and others believe residential construction should be limited. Where do you stand on the housing issue, and how would you handle the residential issues in Erie?

“There needs to be a balance. It doesn’t necessarily mean the same number or an equal split of each. But it would be beneficial to have a plan that enforced a reasonable balance of affordable housing development and open space preservation. From a tax policy or revenue-generating standpoint, we need to develop a financial plan that sets money aside to purchase open space and that encourages developers to diversify the affordability and styles of houses.”

 

Home Rule – Erie recently adopted a timeline to transition to home rule, with a vote expected in Nov 2021. Did you support Erie becoming a home rule town?

“I do support home rule for Erie. Statutory rule is fine for small communities, but we’ve outgrown that and the complexity of issues we’re facing demands that we have rules that are specifically tailored for our unique situations. So it is time to become home rule, and now we should use other excellent towns in Colorado as benchmarks that we can learn from so we’re not starting with a blank piece of paper and are instead incorporating ideal examples into our plan.”

 

What advantages or disadvantages do you foresee, including challenges to implementation?

“It is important to publicize the process and promote our progress. We should have experts talk to leaders and residents about what they’re doing, what the hurdles are, and how to overcome those challenges. But the town also has to solicit public participation in the development of our new rules. The caution I have is that some might try to expand the bureaucracy of the town staff or increase the influence of special interests. It should be the opposite. It gives us a chance to scrub the positions and make sure we don’t have redundancy or ineffectiveness.”

 

Taxes – As a home rule town, the local government has the power to establish its own sales tax. What general tax plans or budgeting priorities would be most effective for Erie?

“Erie needs a financial master plan that looks at long-term data and that identifies what it will take to generate the type of revenue that we need to provide the kinds of services that we envision. We don’t have that yet, and instead, we have year-to-year budgets. But we need a multi-year outlook of where we’re going, and unless you have a long-term framework making immediate decisions on taxes is not very fruitful. Regarding raising any taxes, it would have to be within the context of the plan, appropriate for our needs, and approved by the voters.”

 

Development – Growth could provide increased employment opportunities for residents and more tax revenue for Erie. How would you stimulate economic growth and create more jobs and – specifically – what is Erie most in need of?

“One goal of the new Town Center is to develop small developing industries that can be easily accommodated in fairly low-cost square footage. This is a good start. Pushing small and low-cost properties is a seed we need to plant because as that expands we can properly zone for compatible industries at the appropriate parts of town. It all starts with attracting small businesses through land use, zoning or other incentives. If we can provide incentives for King Soopers to build on Highway 7, certainly we can also offer incentives to attract small businesses and assist new startups.”

 

Health & Safety – Erie has an abundance of oil wells and fracking sites. Some argue that the oil and gas industry is good for the economy while others contend that the industry is destructive to the community and also a dying economy. Where do you stand on oil and gas as a viable economy? 

“The oil and gas industry is an important part of our economy. It’s a component that has helped us achieve energy independence, which is a national security issue because we’re now almost independent of foreign carbon-based fuel. The discovery and extraction of oil and gas has developed tremendously over the past few years, and deposits that are being tapped now with about 400 wells in Erie can be reached from miles away. As a result, we don’t need to put well operations and highly industrialized drilling activities right next to homes or schools. We need strict setback requirements to avoid exposing communities to chemical, vibration or noise hazards.”

 

Given the very short timetable for averting climate catastrophe, at what point will Erie vote to ban fracking?

“I don’t think a ban is necessary. We can protect the health and safety of the community through scientifically determined distance and land use enforcement. The 2,000-foot setback in the new Erie code is optimal, but we also need to look at geography and subsidence patterns. Fracking can induce earthquakes to occur underneath homes, and the town has a responsibility to relieve that risk by using seismic monitoring devices that can detect earthquakes generated by fracking and provide alerts when the seismic activity surpasses the geologically determined thresholds.”

 

Final Remarks – Even though all statewide offices are in Democratic hands, and Bernie Sanders won the primary here in Colorado, the overall political climate remains divisive. How do you plan to work across aisles and ideologies to make the changes you hope to enact, should you be elected?

“Trustee positions are nonpartisan, this election is supposed to be nonpartisan, and my three main concerns are nonpartisan. For instance, how can anyone disagree with the need to protect the health and safety of our town and its residents? I was actually encouraged to run for office by friends who possess starkly different political views because they trusted me to work with people on all spectrums and to address the issues with total objectivity.” 

 

Is there anything else that we haven’t covered and that you’d like the voters to know about yourself? 

“I’m running for you: for all citizens of Erie. Health and safety has not been given adequate consideration with the decisions that have been made. Drilling by residential areas needs to stop, and my experience as a professional engineer that has worked in construction, health, safety, and environmental areas will help me service this community and make sure our vision for the future is properly planned.”

 

Brandon Bell, Trustee Candidate 

 

Can you give us a brief bio of your background and qualifications for office?

“I’m running for the Board of Trustees. I’ve been in Erie since 2017, but I’ve always had a connection to this town because my dad worked here as a civil engineer. I’d often come work for him during the summers, and twenty years ago my brother moved here. Professionally, I am a software engineer. I’ve been in the industry for 22 years, and during that time I’ve worked for IBM and Broadcom. In 2017, we finally made the jump to move to Erie. I got involved with this campaign because I’ve seen the town at every stage of its development, I’m passionate about local politics, and I want to be an integral part of Erie and actively help the community grow.” 

 

In bullet point, what are your main platform goals?

“I want to bring back accountability to town government because a lot of people are angry about the bridge debacle and the million dollars that got lost. Also, as we move towards home rule we need systems in place to build a larger organizational structure and procedural plan to supplement that change. Commercial development is also key, as I’d like to bring more business opportunities into town to generate more sales tax revenue. I also want to improve our infrastructure since we’re reliant on aging county line grids that we’ve outgrown. Finally, I’d like to address oil and gas by using SB 181 to increase our leverage with negotiations and expand our control over regulations.”

 

Transportation and Infrastructure – What do you see as the most pressing transportation and/or infrastructure concerns in Erie, and what are your plans to address those?

“We have this aging county line grid that the whole town is built off of, and it has four major north-south access points. There’s a lot of amenities, but they’re all on the outskirts of town and even getting to the King Soopers is a long trip. We need to look at a modernized system that can accommodate the higher volumes of traffic, safer control measures, and better plans for dealing with the landfill traffic coming off of County Road 5.  While ideally, we need primary employers so fewer cars need to leave and return every day, in the interim we have to accommodate the population growth and support the vehicle needs by consulting with traffic engineers and by updating our infrastructure grid.”

 

Housing – Some residents believe more diverse housing options are needed and others believe residential construction should be limited. Where do you stand on the housing issue, and how would you handle the residential issues in Erie?

“The town needs smaller and more condensed housing. The price for new homes essentially starts at $300,000, which is not affordable for the younger people just graduating from school and starting their careers. We should avoid becoming a town that is only for the older generation, and instead bring in houses that are smaller and that get to lower price points. So for open space we need to purchase land so the residents can enjoy hiking or biking on the trails, and for residential development, we should prioritize condensed and affordable housing.”

 

Home Rule – Erie recently adopted a timeline to transition to home rule, with a vote expected in Nov 2021. Did you support Erie becoming a home rule town?

“Home rule is a natural evolution for how this town is growing. It came up years ago but it didn’t go through. Now it will be beneficial especially for our sales tax. Right now Superior is half our size and yet they collect about 20 percent more sales tax revenue than us. Erie has a 70 percent leakage of sales tax from everybody leaving town and shopping elsewhere every day, and so hopefully home rule can increase the sales tax we can generate.”

 

What advantages or disadvantages do you foresee, including challenges to implementation?

“The organizational structure might be challenging. We need to hire staff to collect and report the sales taxes, so it’s important to look at the organizational or staffing needs. Picking the charter commissioners is also crucial. If the charter is not well-written, then the endeavor will fail, and so we need to keep people engaged, hire a town consultant to keep them informed, and then make sure that they participate in the process so our commissioners are competent and the charter is effective.”

 

Taxes – As a home rule town, the local government has the power to establish its own sales tax. What general tax plans or budgeting priorities would be most effective for Erie?

“We don’t need radical change from the tax codes we’re using now, but we need a lot more of it. We have a slice of the pie now, and we just need to grow the entire pie with commercial development so our slice of sales tax revenue is bigger. I would potentially support a tax increase if it is specifically allocated for an important need, such as infrastructure. But most importantly we need to bring in more retail and commercial so we can make sales tax a larger percentage of the revenue we bring in for our town.”

 

Development – Growth could provide increased employment opportunities for residents and more tax revenue for Erie. How would you stimulate economic growth and create more jobs and – specifically – what is Erie most in need of?

“The best opportunity for commercial development is out at I-25. We have two parcels of land out there that would be prime for commercial projects and that could generate millions of dollars in sales tax revenue for Erie. The Town Center is another good opportunity that can help us attract more businesses and that can provide more primary employment. I would attract businesses by offering good tax incentives, competing with the surrounding areas, providing better deals than our neighbors of Firestone and Frederick, and making sure permitting issues and impact fees aren’t counterproductive to development.”

 

Health & Safety – Erie has an abundance of oil wells and fracking sites. Some argue that the oil and gas industry is good for the economy while others contend that the industry is destructive to the community and also a dying economy. Where do you stand on oil and gas as a viable economy? 

“Right now the industry is an extremely viable economy because no piece of renewable energy can be made without oil and gas. Hopefully, we can eventually get to 100 percent renewable, but we’re still in the transition phase and so it’s important that we keep the oil and gas industry. On the flip side, proximity, health, and safety are big concerns that we need to address for our citizens. We need to work with companies, negotiate from positions of strength, and develop compromises that protect our residents from harmful environmental hazards but that allow the companies to operate without constant legal disputes.” 

 

Given the very short timetable for averting climate catastrophe, at what point will Erie vote to ban fracking?

“I’m not in favor of bans. We’re still dependent on oil and gas being produced, so we just need to ensure that it’s produced safely and that sites are further away from development. But I also think that an Erie code should require all residents to have explosive gas detector monitoring devices in their homes to prevent accidents like what happened in Firestone. Whereas people can have gas leaks in their homes without knowing it, the devices can detect carbon monoxide, fire hazards, and explosive gases. Having these detectors would be an effective way to help residents monitor the safety of their own homes and receive alerts if any dangers emerge.”

 

Final Remarks – Even though all statewide offices are in Democratic hands, and Bernie Sanders won the primary here in Colorado, the overall political climate remains divisive. How do you plan to work across aisles and ideologies to make the changes you hope to enact, should you be elected?

“I’ve met most of the current trustees. They’re all good people, so we may have differing ideas but everyone wants to see Erie prosper. I want to reach across the aisle to form deals, and usually, there’s a middle ground to be reached. There’s some issues where we may not have a middle ground, but it’s good to focus on the issues where we all agree unanimously or where we can find reasonable compromises while remaining professional and respectful.”

 

Is there anything else that we haven’t covered and that you’d like the voters to know about yourself? 

“I know there’s been turmoil about what prior boards or leaders did. But I think residents want a fresh start from that. Different battles are being fought now, and with the growth that’s occurred in the recent years, there’s a lot of new people and changeover. So let’s use the past as a learning experience but make sure to move forward, concentrate on what people are concerned about now, and work to develop solutions to our current issues.”

 

Sara Loflin, Trustee Candidate – ENDORSED

 

Can you give us a brief bio of your background and qualifications for office, including which office you are seeking? 

“I’m running for Erie Trustee. I have been a community organizer for almost two decades while working in affordable housing, the labor movement, health care organization, and elevating the voices of local communities. I want our town to build a sense of community, remain responsive to real people, and ensure that people have a voice within the local government.”

 

In bullet point, what are your main platform goals?

“Making sure we are open and friendly to small businesses, have a variety of housing options and price points, maintain sustainable growth, conserve our water, protect our public spaces, and put health and safety first over oil and gas.”

 

Transportation and Infrastructure – What do you see as the most pressing transportation and/or infrastructure concerns in Erie, and what are your plans to address those?

“Transportation is the number one concern I hear from voters. Our main arteries are becoming insufficient to handle traffic volume. Arapahoe, Highway 7, and Erie Parkway get backed up every morning and afternoon. Though we need roadways that can accommodate the volume, we also need alternative transportation availability, such as transit buses with accessible schedules, and corridors that allow people to walk, bike and ride scooters to get around. We also need to improve the safety of neighborhood roads by implementing effective speed bumps and reasonable speed limits,”

 

Housing – Some residents believe more diverse housing options are needed and others believe residential construction should be limited. Where do you stand on the housing issue, and how would you handle the residential issues in Erie?

“I cut my teeth working with communities on affordable housing plans. We can strike a balance by protecting open spaces and remaining family-focused. But we also need to ensure housing is available for young people entering the workforce and our teachers, police officers and firefighters. We need to set zoning, density and affordability standards, and we need to offer diverse housing at a variety of price points, including townhomes, tiny houses and rental options.” 

 

Home Rule – Erie recently adopted a timeline to transition to home rule, with a vote expected in Nov 2021. Did you support Erie becoming a home rule town?

“I support Erie becoming a home rule town. The population growth is making it necessary to set our own rules according to our budgetary, transit, tax, and oil and gas regulation needs.”

 

What advantages or disadvantages do you foresee, including challenges to implementation?

“The change would impact the way the area will have to govern itself when it comes to attracting businesses, collecting taxes, and managing the split between Weld and Boulder Counties.”

 

Taxes – As a home rule town, the local government has the power to establish its own sales tax. What general tax plans or budgeting priorities would be most effective for Erie?

“I would conduct research and put thought into how we raise and allocate our taxes.”

 

Development – Growth could provide increased employment opportunities for residents and more tax revenue for Erie. How would you stimulate economic growth and create more jobs and – specifically – what is Erie most in need of?

“Many small business owners are frustrated that the process to open up is extremely long and untenable, as they must fulfill several phases and pay exorbitant fees – including $75,000 for water tap – during the application process. We need to streamline the process, alleviate the fees, and make it easier for small businesses to open. Additionally, we need to bring primary employers to Erie that pay living wages, including retail, grocery, manufacturing, business, and telecom.”

 

Health & Safety – Erie has an abundance of oil wells and fracking sites. Some argue that the oil and gas industry is good for the economy while others contend that the industry is destructive to the community and also a dying economy. Where do you stand on oil and gas as a viable economy? 

“We must transition from fossil fuels due to climate change and because it’s a finite resource. We need to thank the oil and gas workers, but we also need to transition to renewables. It’s especially important that we stop neighborhood drilling because numerous studies show that drilling in proximity to homes and neighborhoods is detrimental to health and problematic to communities.”

 

Given the very short timetable for averting climate catastrophe, at what point will Erie vote to ban fracking?

“As the Executive Director of LOGIC, we worked to make sure citizen voices were involved with the development and passage of SB 181. Now local governments have the right to promote the safety and welfare of their residents, and Erie should have the right to say no to individual sites on a case-by-case basis. We should take stock of all emissions, and reject future oil and gas projects if they can’t prove that they would not add emissions to our regional air quality problem.”

 

Final Remarks – Even though all statewide offices are in Democratic hands, and Bernie Sanders won the primary here in Colorado, the overall political climate remains divisive. How do you plan to work across aisles and ideologies to make the changes you hope to enact, should you be elected?

“It has been an honor and privilege to help build communities and make sure all people can voice their concerns regardless of ideology. Our organization made an intentional decision to work with people and not fight or attack people. This method has led to building bridges, even with retired oil and gas lobbyists who have helped us demonstrate why pipelines don’t belong in backyards and are not compatible with residential use.”

 

Is there anything else that we haven’t covered and that you’d like the voters to know about yourself? 

No further comments.

Jim Luthi, Trustee Candidate – Did not respond to Request for Interview

 

 

Todd Sargent, Trustee Candidate – Did not respond to Request for Interview

 

 

ENDORSEMENTS 

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Our endorsement for mayor couldn’t have been more clear: Christiaan van Woudenberg is brilliant, dedicated, determined, effective, and consistent. As the only mayoral candidate that spoke to a willingness to ban fracking (not that we can do that politically, but we need leadership that see it as an eventuality) with well thought out goals for every aspect of our community and a track record of getting things done with integrity, we are proud to endorse this self-funded campaign and to see what other great work he does in and for our community.

In the trustee race, with three seats up for grabs, we endorse Sara Loflin, unequivocally. She’s smart, dedicated, a long time activist -meaning dedicated to making change from the ground up – and leads an organization that means she can hit the ground running in terms of understanding and navigating the halls of power and bureaucracies. The truth, however, is that we struggled to feel 100 percent committed to any other candidate for trustee, none of whom offered satisfactory answers in all the areas we questioned. We feel most strongly about endorsing Ari Harrison with Bryon Bednar a distant third. We also think James Lee would bring a missing perspective to the board, given his long family history in the community and working in an industry – and labor class – not often represented in politics.

Please take the time to read through the interviews and find the subtle differences between these candidates – most of which hold overlapping views – to find the candidate that speaks most clearly to your own values and aspirations for our community.

 

-De La Vaca,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Managing Editor, Yellow Scene Magazine.

 

 

 

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